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May 24, 2013

Changing World Orders and Implications for the University Sector

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus


Image. Delft University of Technology campus shot.

A blog post by Dirk Jan van den Berg, President of Delft University of Technology

The rise of the BRICK nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Korea) is one of the defining changes of the post-Cold War world. The growing economic potential of these markets is well documented but, what is (still), less commonly discussed is the massive impact these emerging powers are bringing to bear on the global research and knowledge landscape.

Take the pioneering work of the Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge Research Project, for instance. In 1973, about two thirds of the nearly 400,000 academic research publications indexed by Thomson Reuters came from the G7 countries. Today, four times as many documents (around 1.75 million journal publications) are being indexed, and half originate from outside the G7.

This is a nothing less than a sea change, driven by the exponential growth in investment in research and development in the BRICKs. Inevitably, this trend has massive implications for universities right across the world, not least in the G7. In Europe, for example, the heritage and reputation of our universities have long underpinned our economic growth. Any significant deterioration of their international standing threatens to eventually undermine our future prosperity. The choice is simple: adapt or gradually decay. For Delft, our strategy has two principle elements.

Firstly, we have redoubled our efforts to attract the best scientists. Education and research are increasingly characterised by international co-operation and funding, and we welcome the rich opportunities offered by recruiting both academics and students from across the world.

The landmark discovery last year by Delft of the Majorana particle, for example, was the result of a collaborative effort by a Dutch PhD student and a Chinese colleague, under the supervision of Professor Leo Kouwenhoven. In today’s world, such partnerships are the norm and universities that see national borders risk becoming irrelevant.

Secondly, if European universities want to continue undertaking research at the highest level, we have to both develop better facilities (e.g. laboratories), and give more of our scientists the opportunity to work where the best campuses increasingly are (the BRICKS) -- whilst, of course, ensuring their know-how continues to benefit Europe.

The facilities of European universities, in general, are simply unable to keep up with international developments. Some are doing well, but the BRICK competition is generally advancing much faster.

Enhancing European campuses (many buildings of which date back many decades) is a precondition for attracting and retaining Europe’s knowledge capital, for more competitive EU universities in the global battle for brains, and for supporting innovation in the economy. To secure this improvement, we need to become better at sharing knowledge about campus improvement and management. Key tools to enable this would include ‘campus stress tests’, including performance benchmarks such as inter-university collaboration, space utilisation, ecological footprint, total costs, shared university-city functions. The reason why Europe has fallen behind, quite simply, is money. Whilst funding of many European universities is being eroded all the time, countries like China are investing amounts unimaginable to us in facilities. Their scientific quality generally stills falls short of ours, but their facilities are well ahead.

For leading researchers in many fields, China is becoming the place to be. And that is why Delft has opened four research centres there. In partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a Beijing Research Centre is engaged mainly in research on solid state lighting; with Hohai University in Nanjing, a water research centre is focused upon delta technology and hydrology; with Wuhan University we have launched a centre for geo-information, geodesy and earth observation; and with South China University of Technology, in Guangzhou, we have started the Research Centre for Urban Systems and Environment. This represents the next stage in Delft’s global strategy. In a context where education and research are more international, and increasingly gravitating online, we are planting pieces of Delft University in the places where they have the best chance of flourishing and where the greatest yields in knowledge are to be had. And that is no longer in the Netherlands, but in the BRICKs.

In each of these four research fields (solid state lighting, water, geo-information, and urban systems) the Netherlands is a world knowledge leader. And in all of these areas of infrastructure development, China’s rapid growth means it is facing need for major new innovation and expertise in these areas. The case for collaboration is clear.

As research in science and technology knows no national borders, it is very likely we will see major research hubs developing, connected through a global network of research activity. A lot of focus is being placed on ICT technologies as a carrier of international research cooperation. However there will be no clicks without bricks and the major research hubs will develop where research infrastructure and vibrant eco-systems are best.

Top researchers will thus go to the emerging focal points of their disciplines. We have to make sure that these focal points will not be in Asia or the US alone. Europe needs to defend its rich and productive academic legacy and make sure that it plays a full role in leading edge research through strong European hubs in a global network of research cooperation.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Delft University of Technology. Source: (tuxboard)
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Image. Dr D.J. van den Berg TU Delft UniversityDirk Jan van den Berg is President of Delft University of Technology, and was formerly the Dutch Ambassador to China and the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.






May 23, 2013

The Research Triangle

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/knowledge/business/gus

Image. Penrose triangle

A blog post by Simon Bradley, Vice-President of EADS

In 2012, Sir Tim Wilson recommended the creation of a new centre based on university and industry collaboration, a place to share best practice across industrial sectors as well as encouraging companies who traditionally do not enter this model, usually smaller to medium size, to see the real value of such collaborations. Overall aims included the gathering and maintaining of a comprehensive repository of good practice, the undertaking of commissioned studies and a place to provide reliable information sources for future substantive reviews on the topic. In 2013, this recommendation was delivered with the opening of the National Centre for Universities & Business (NCUB) – run under the auspices of the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE).

Why is this important to us? For EADS, upstream investment (TRL 1–4) is vital to the success of the group and has enabled us to design and build truly historic products, from the engines on-board the LZ-1 Zeppelin (which flew in 1900), to the world’s first commercial radio broadcast in 1920 or Concorde in 1969 and the Airbus A380 today. Worldwide, we are ranked as the thirtieth largest-spending company worldwide in R&D, at €3.9bn (Rank position from 2012). When the Department for Business Innovation & Skills produced its UK R&D scorecard report, listing the 1,000 top UK and global companies, based upon R&D investment, EADS was ranked number one (including its subsidiaries Airbus, Cassidian, Eurocopter and Astrium) based on foreign-owned (as defined by BIS) R&D investment in the UK.

So what is the problem? Finding the jewels that transfer from ideas into real technology that delivers business benefit is a non-exact science, which requires all parties to understand the value of failure as well as that of success. For every project that delivers there are perhaps five, ten or even 100 that do not. Critical breakthroughs happen in our labs but crucially they also happen in universities, SMEs and other companies – we need to be able to locate, nurture and integrate these breakthrough technologies in a manner that benefits all stakeholders. We need to engender trust relationships so that long terms partnerships can flourish and people are open to sharing their technology. How do we do this?

In Wales we have pioneered the EADS Foundation for Wales, a not-for profit, limited by guarantee company, which has a triangle of stakeholders – industry, academia and government. This foundation encourages anyone with an idea to pitch their technology within a number of grand challenges; these are defined as areas of importance to industry and also to Wales. Each stakeholder contributes, either cash or in-kind resource, and external SMEs, academics and others can apply for funding through a wave process that allows very quick decision making and incremental awards based on results. The key to the success of the Foundation is adopting a trust relationship; all background IP is respected and any new IP created is placed under the ownership of the Foundation. Once a project is ready for exploitation, the IP can then be purchased at an independently valued market rate.

The next stage, for Wales, is to roll out this Foundation model across other sectors, not just aerospace and defence, encouraging other large companies to invest into this model and increase the Welsh SME eco-system, feeding into the supply chains of the major companies and providing a means for smaller companies to work with academia and perform real R&D without using up precious funding.

This blog is part of a regular series on the Knowledge Centre looking at issues in higher education ahead of the Global University Summit (May 28-30 2013), hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London. As part of the Summit, a declaration of commitment and policy recommendations will be drawn up for the G8 summit of world leaders, taking place in Northern Ireland in June.

Image: Penrose Triangle. Source: (Flickr)
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Image. Simon Bradley, EADS, standing next to a DalekSimon Bradley started his career with British Airways before becoming part of the design team for the system architecture behind the secure communications platform at No. 10 Downing Street. After the successful implementation of the system he joined the United Nations. Simon Bradley joined EADS in 2006 and, in 2011, Simon started his latest challenge working for the Global Innovation Network team within the Office of the Chief Technical Officer, Dr Jean Botti. Simon is a visiting Professor at Aberystwyth University(Prifysgol Aberystwyth) in Wales, a member of the Scientific Advisory Council for Wales and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences on systems engineering, homeland security and innovation.


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